Getting Rid of the Stereotypes, and Teaching in a Multicultural Perspective It is rare that any two-classroom teachers will have the same definition for multicultural education. “The basic goal of multicultural education is to help all children understand and appreciate events and people from various points of view” (Welton, 113). Teaching with a multicultural perspective encourages appreciation and understanding of other cultures as well as one’s own. Rey Gomez states that teaching with this perspective promotes the child’s sense of the uniqueness of his own culture as a positive characteristic and enables the child to accept the uniqueness of the cultures of others.
Children’s attitudes toward their race and ethnic group and other cultural groups begin to form early in the preschool years. Children are easily influenced by the cultural, opinions, and attitudes of their caregivers. Caregiver’s perceptions of ethnic and racial groups can affect the child’s attitudes toward those minority groups. “Early childhood educators can influence the development of positive attitudes in young children by learning about and promoting the various cultures represented among the children they teach” (Gomez, 1). Gomez also states young children can develop stereotypic viewpoints of cultures different from their own when similarities among all individuals are not emphasized. Teachers can help eliminate stereotypes by presenting material and activities that enable children to learn the similarities of all individuals. Early childhood teachers and parents of young children should become aware of the myths and assumptions associated with multicultural education so that they develop appropriate goals and methods. Listed below are the assumptions of multicultural education created by Paul Gorski and Bob Covert:
1. It is increasingly important for political, social, educational and economic reasons to recognize the US is a culturally diverse society.
2. Multicultural education is for all students.
3. Multicultural education is synonymous with effective teaching.
4. Teaching is a cross-cultural encounter.
5. The educational system has not served all students equally well.
6. Multicultural education is (should) being synonymous with educational innovation and reform.
7. Next to parents (primary caregivers) teachers are the single most important factor in the lives of children.
8. Classroom interaction between teachers and students constitutes the major part of the educational process for most students.
Multicultural education represents a perspective rather than a curriculum. “Through multicultural literature, children discover that all cultural groups have made significant contributions to civilization” (Norton, 62). V.J. Dimidjian states that the goal of multicultural education is not only to teach children about other groups or countries. It also helps children become accustomed to the idea that there are many lifestyles, languages,
cultures, and points of view. “The purpose of multicultural curriculum is to attach positive feelings to multicultural experiences so that each child will feel included and valued, and will feel friendly and respectful toward people from other ethnic and cultural groups” (Dimidjian, 44).
Review of Literature:
A multicultural program should not focus on other cultures to the exclusion of cultures represented in the class stated David Welton. He says certain children from different cultures often have to make major behavioral adjustments to meet the expectations of the school. One idea was that teachers should take whatever measures are necessary to see that children do not interpret these changes as evidence of cultural stereotypes. Listed below are myths written by Paul Gorski and Bob Covert that need to be gotten rid of:
Myth #1: Other cultures should be presented as
distinct ways of living that reflect differences
from the dominant culture.
Myth #2: Bilingualism is a liability rather than an
Myth #3: Multicultural education is only relevant in
classes with students who are members of the
cultural or racial groups to be studied.
Myth #4: There should be a separate, unified set of
goals and curriculum for multicultural education.
Myth #5: Mere Activities, which are not placed in an
explicit cultural context, constitute viable
multicultural education curriculum.
One of the major issues pointed out was that “It is
tempting to deny our prejudices and claim that we find all children equally appealing” (Phillips 2). Teachers and parents need to acknowledge the fact that we, like our children, are influenced by stereotypes that exist in our schools and the media. “Nurturing diversity means making multicultural education a process of action, through which we as adults achieve clarity about our condition in this society and ways to change it” (Phillips, 43). Phillips states if a teacher is to understand the whole child, he or she must become aware of the child’s cultural background. Children can benefit from understanding the teacher’s heritage and background also. A combination of all the literature I read, it mentioned that as our country continues to exhibit great diversity, the need for understanding and accepting the differences among all people has never been more important. It also stated that the challenge for educators is to present an effective multicultural education foundation by means of which all children can learn to accept others.
To get rid of stereotypes, and for teachers to teach in a multicultural perspective, the educational community needs a path to follow to reach their goals. “Circle time is particularly helpful in this respect, as it provides children with a feeling of group identity and introduces them to the variety of cultures represented in the class” (Dixon and Fraser, 62.) To overcome the myths stated earlier, teachers need to consider children’s cultural identities and be aware of their own biases. One solution made by Phillips was that in order to change people’s oppressive ways, we must learn about oppression. He said we must examine our responses to diversity, devoting as much effort to changing them as we devote to learning about culture. Teachers and parents can take several approaches to integrate and develop a multicultural perspective. I think children’s play, or role-play, is an excellent strategy for developing new perspectives on cultures and lifestyles. Also, threatening children as unique individuals, each with something to contribute is an important strategy as well.
Welton included in his book approaches to a multicultural education and perspectives. One approach is the Contributions Approach. This approach focuses on activities and units that involve heroes, holidays, and unique cultural events. The second approach is the Additive Approach. This approach adds other books, units, or courses to the existing curriculum, but not changing it to a large extent. Another approach is the Transformational Approach. This approach changes the original curriculum so that the student’s perspective is that of a different culture or ethnic group. The last approach mentioned was the Social Action Approach. With this approach students will use the knowledge they already know and focus that on important social issues, asking students to make decisions and appropriate actions to become skilled in social change. Out of all of these approaches presented, I personally like the contributions and transformational approaches the most. I believe the other two approaches would be successful but also become confusing to the students at times.
When using any approach to get rid of stereotypes, and have a multicultural perspective in the classroom, there must be goals to accomplish this. Listed below are the goals of multicultural education created by Gorski and Covert:
1. To have every student achieve to his or her potential.
2. To learn how to learn and to think critically.
3. To encourage students to take an active role in their own education by bringing their stories and experiences into the learning scope.
4. To address diverse learning styles.
5. To appreciate the contributions of different groups who have contributed to our knowledge base.
6. To develop positive attitudes about groups of people who are different from ourselves.
7. To become good citizens of the school, community, the country and the world community.
8. To learn how to evaluate knowledge from different perspectives.
Our world is multicultural, and children need to experience the diversity outside their immediate environment. Otherwise, children can grow to adulthood unaware of the experiences of other cultural groups. All activities in and outside the classroom should be accompanied by explanations that explain their cultural context. I agree with Gomez as he says one key to helping young children develop a sense of being citizens of the world, relies on the early childhood teacher. “The disposition exhibited by this individual in promoting everyone’s culture will be the successful factor in the child’s development of a multicultural perspective” (Dimidjian, 6). In doing my research on this diversity subject, I now feel strongly about using a multicultural perspective in my classroom. Although there are many toes you can step on along the way, making sure there are no stereotypes in my classroom will be a necessity. Getting rid of the stereotypes, and teaching in a multicultural perspective will be one of my goals in the near future when I am a teacher myself.
Dimidjian, V.J. “Holiday, Holy Days, and Wholly Dazed.” Young Children
1989: 6, 44.
Dixon, G. T. & Fraser, S. “Teaching Preschoolers in a Multilingual Classroom.”
Childhood Education 1986: 62.
Gomez, Rey A. “Teaching with a Multicultural Perspective.” Eric Digests
1991. 30 Jan. 2002
Gorski, Paul. & Covert, Bob. “Defining of Multicultural Education.”
Multicultural Pavilion 2000. 30 Jan. 2002 http://curry.edschool.virginia.edu/go/multicultural/initial.html.
Norton, D.E. “Language and Cognitive Development Through Multicultural
Literature.” Childhood Education 1985: 62.
Phillips, C.B. “Nurturing Diversity For Today’s Children and Tomorrow’s
Leaders.” Young Children 1988: 2, 43.
Welton, David A. Children and Their World: Strategies for Teaching Social
Studies. 7th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.